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Ikan Paus Yang Bertanduk

Narwhal (Monodon monoceros) adalah nama salah satu paus yg paling tidak diketahui manusia. Nama “narwhal” berasal dari bahasa Norse Kuno yg berarti “paus mayat”. Nama itu diberikan karena kebiasaannya yg kadang-kadang berenang tak bergerak di permukaan laut dengan posisi perut menghadap ke atas & warna tubuhnya yg bertotol-totol kelabu seperti pelaut yg tenggelam. Mereka diketahui hanya hidup di seluruh perairan Kutub Utara, tepatnya di Samudera Arktik. Narwhal adalah paus bergigi & termasuk karnivora yg memakan hewan-hewan laut seperti ikan, udang, atau cumi-cumi

Tanduk spiral narwhal yang misterius ternyata berfungsi sebagai sensor raksasa yang membantunya mengetahui kualitas air dan untuk “mencium” narwhal lainnya.

Tanduk paus narwhal yang panjangnya bisa mencapai 2,4 meter itu telah sejak lama menjadi teka-teki para ahli alam dan pemburu. Penjelasan mengenai fungsinya pun seringkali menimbulkan perdebatan, begitu kata Dr. Martin Nweeia, seorang peneliti Harvard School of Dental Medicine.

Menurut Nweeia, tanduk tersebut sepertinya memiliki kemampuan penginderaan hidrodinamik. Ia mengungkapkan hal ini dalam prsentasi di Konferensi mengenai Biologi Mamalia Laut di San Diego.


Narwhal (Monodon monoceros) adalah sejenis paus yang termasuk sangat langka. Panjang tubuhnya mencapai 4 hingga 4,5 meter, dan kebanyakan dijumpai di perairan lautan Artik sekitar Kanada, tapi kadang juga terlihat jauh ke timur hingga Rusia.

Tim Nweeia menemukan bahwa tanduk narwhal serupa dengan membran dengan permukaan yang amat sensitif. Ada sekitar 10 juta saraf yang terhubung ke permukaan tanduknya, guna mendeteksi perubahan suhu, tekanan, dan kadar garam air.

“Tidak ada sesuatu yang sebanding dengannya di alam dan tak ada yang lebih unik dari tanduk narwhal dalam hal bentuk, kenampakan, dan fungsinya.

Setiap paus narwhal (Monodon monoceros) juga menggunakan suara untuk berkomunikasi satu sama lain seperti halnya lumba-lumba atau ikan paus lainnya. Bahkan, masing-masing kemungkinan memiliki suara unik yang juga menunjukkan identitasnya.

Para ilmuwan telah lama mengetahui bahwa mamalia laut menggunakan sinyal suara untuk berkomunikasi satu sama lain di dalam air. Penelitian terakhir bahkan menunjukkan bahwa paus punya dialek.

Namun, belum banyak penelitian yang mempelajari identitas suara seperti yang diguankan paus narwhal. Para penelitinya yakin paus narwhal menggunakan suara untuk mengenali sesamanya dan membedakan satu individu dengan individu lainnya.

Hal tersebut disimpulkan para ilmuwan setelah mempelajari suara tiga ekor narwhal di Teluk Admiralty di Pulau Baffin, Kanada. Mereka menggunakan perekam elektronik yang ditempel di badan mamalia raksasa tersebut.

“Untuk pertama kalinya, kami benar-benar dapat mengikuti hewan tersebut kapan saja mereka bersuara dan ke mana saja mereka bergerak,” kata Ari Shapiro dari the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Meskipun salah satu alat perekamnya hilang, dua yang tersisa telah menunjukkan bentuk suara yang berlainan, berupa suara siulan dan denyutan. Shapiro menunjukkan bahwa kedua jenis suara bukanlah sinyal yang dipakai untuk bertukar informasi mengenai sumber makanan, tapi sekedar menunjukkan identitas individu dalam komunikasi sosial.

Apa yang dilakukan paus narwhal mirip dengan lumba-lumba hidung botol yang juga mengeluarkan suara siulan untuk berkomunikasi. Meskipun data-data mengenai komunikasi di antara paus narwhal masih minim, para ilmuwan yakin ia memiliki pendengaran yang sangat peka seperti halnya paus lainnya.

Mereka rutin melakukan migrasi hingga ribuan kilometer dan berkelompok. Maka dengan suara yang berbeda-beda, masing-masing dapat membedakan individu dalam kelompoknya atau kelompok lainnya. Hasil penelitian ini dimuat dalam Journal of Acoustical Society of America edisi September 2006.